Manchester United lost 1-0 to Newcastle United at St James’ Park, with the scoreline was very flattering to Ten Hag’s men.
Manchester United struggled in the first half, managing just two shots whilst spending the vast majority of it being aggressively dominated by Eddie Howe’s side. The second half began similarly, and it took Newcastle ten minutes to take the lead through Anthony Gordon. United did not threaten too much for the rest of the game.
Overall, a very pathetic display from Manchester United – possibly the team’s weakest performance all season.
#1 – United problems continue to press
Once again, Manchester United’s pressing structure caused them significant issues against Newcastle United. Every time the hosts had the ball, it felt like the entire middle of the pitch was a free run to United’s box.
United conceded fourteen shots in the first half alone. For context, Galatasaray managed sixteen in the entire game in Istanbul, where United drew 3-3. The way United press is opening them up far too much right now, the last time United conceded under ten shots in a game was the 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace at the end of September. They would finish with 22 shots conceded.
#2 – Maguire and Shaw strong at the back
For all the work United’s defenders have had to do, their centre-backs were doing it well in this game. Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw had their backs against the walls but did not give up fighting. At half time, they were the sole reason United were even still in the game. Maguire especially made some truly exceptional defensive interventions that were goal-saving.
The second half would end up being much the same, the two centre-backs having to make big interventions early in the half. They were the only players who ever looked like doing anything, let down by their teammates.
#3 – The long balls aren’t working
Manchester United signed André Onana as one of the best ball-playing goalkeepers in world football, but so far, all he has been asked to do is kick it as far up the field as he can at every opportunity.
Every time Ten Hag’s men went long from the back, the ball would make its way back to their box within seconds. United have struggled with second balls all season, but tonight was the worst physical domination they have endured in some time. At some point, something has to change, this strategy is not maximising United’s players at all.
#4 – Garnacho warrants the starting berth on the left-hand side
He might not be the finished product yet, but Alejandro Garnacho right now deserves to be the starter at left wing for this team.
On the ball, he is still hit or miss, but off it, he is providing more work rate than anybody else at the moment. With United in a place where they are struggling defensively, they need players like Garnacho who are willing to put the required work in and out of possession for Manchester United.
#5 – Ten Hag needs to reinstate Raphaël Varane
Right now, Erik ten Hag’s stubbornness is hurting Manchester United more than helping them, and his refusal to play Raphaël Varane is one of the biggest examples of it.
Pre-injury, the Frenchman had been arguably United’s best player this season, and he is inarguably Manchester United’s best defensive player. Ten Hag’s preference for players to be on their natural sides in buildup feels an odd excuse given Varane’s comfort on both feet, but the team is sorely missing his defensive strength and leadership right now.
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